Saturday, April 28, 2012

Short and sweet

I was so pleased with the show that FVAC installed for me. The crowd was very nice and so supportive of the work, there were kids (yay! I never got to visit art openings at that age; this is a great time to start), and the food was good (which made it hard for me to stay away from when I knew I had to be near the art). I always forget how helpful it is to have the artist there to explain things. Not that the work can't speak for itself, but the illumination is always helpful.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Processing and recovering

Oh, wow. That week in Ohio was even more intense than my first trip to the Morgan when I worked around the clock. And this time I didn't lose any weight, either. The students were not very happy when I dragged them outdoors to see the kozo garden at the Morgan so I hustled them back in as quickly as I could. My fault for having them take off jackets BEFORE we took that trip outside. But I had been working for hours before they arrived so I was already as warmed up as I was going to get. I flew home yesterday after a late session of drying hanji (I crawled into bed at 2am and was up again by 6:20am). It's a miracle I didn't crash the rental car with all the heavy-eyed driving I was doing, but I was so happy to connect with the people that I did, both in Cleveland and at Oberlin.
Meanwhile, I got a lovely package of Bulhwaji books from Asao Shimura today. Ten books, all for sale at 22 USD each, contact me if you want to buy. About 11 leaves of info about hanji and Asao's trip to Korea, plus five small samples of hanji, four of them dyed with organic dye and kon'nyaku, and then two teeny samples of shifu (one washed white, one right after weaving).
I finally typed out my notes from the Book in East Asia workshop I was so honored to attend at Oberlin this past week. It was a day and a half of super intensity, but we all came away having learned a ridiculous amount. This image was from their postcards and posters for the public lectures, and we got to see the original at the art museum, which I loved straightaway. He is writing on a banana leaf! It's too wonderful. And what does it remind me of?
I love it! Anyhow, I did want to share a few notes from the workshop, which I believe is the first to gather scholars (professors, conservators, librarians, etc.) of the book in China/Korea/Japan:

To learn how to handle Chinese and Japanese scrolls, the Freer Sackler has videos online!

People love printmaking, and have for centuries (no one said this, I just remembered it).

Stab bindings (the official name being side-stitched bindings) happened in East Asia b/c the paper was so thin and flexible and strong. I usually hate teaching stabs because I was taught to do them with Western paper, and the cheap, thick, stiff stuff totally works against the binding.

Buddhists love books.

Even people who are obsessed with books don't seem to share that zeal for paper. Paper becomes invisible as it supports the contents of books.

Cutters, who were the artisans who cut woodblocks for printing, were itinerant (traveling for work), taught while they traveled/worked, and were willing to work for very low wages. I must have been a cutter in a past life because that is the exact description of me, now!

Even really smart scholars use words that they have never heard spoken aloud.

In research (and life, I believe), you only see something once you are ready to see it.

People are still willing to talk to me even on bad hair days (which will be every day until this cut grows out).

Most importantly, it is surreal to try and switch between manual labor and intellectual labor. I went from two days of pure brute force (beating fiber) to two days of sitting on my ass and listening to lectures and panels and papers and watching the slides go by, to three more days of wet, cold labor. But I am glad that the students went from the workshops and lectures to getting wet in the paper studio. It's always nice to come away with something tangible.

I'm going to be on various trains for something like eight hours tomorrow, all told, so I can make it to the closing reception of my solo exhibit in Connecticut. I don't think I've ever booked such last-minute tickets, but I was so wholly consumed in Ohio that I could not think an hour ahead of my present second. I am still confused as to what day and month and year it is, and in shock that I will be in Santa Fe in less than a week!

Monday, April 23, 2012


I'm still so exhausted I can't articulate myself or process the very full several days that have been zooming by in Cleveland, but at least all 168 sheets or so that the class made yesterday are finally dry.

Meanwhile, I used way too much retention aid and it cancels out PMP (and of course I don't have any PEO mixed up to go) so all I did today was do some smaller Japanese sheets, even smaller western sheets with blue kozo, and some hanji that was going well before the flocculation. I would have kept going but my body was screaming for a break. The water is COLD. Great for the paper, but hard for me. Time to check the heat dryer again!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Aftermath of many good things

Whew. These past few days have been completely exhausting and fulfilling all at once, with an excellent Book in East Asia workshop for two days, and then my papermaking workshop for students today. I was so pleased to meet the people I met and learn SO MUCH. I completely overshot in terms of the papermaking class. In my unreasonable desire for students to do mostly all fun for three hours, I left myself with four hours of cleanup and now many more hours to dry their paper before delivering it in two days. There were at least 13 if not more people making paper, and I didn't think it would be so bad, but I had to cut more pellons during class and had already cut well over 100, so now I am slowly drying. I took a break to make a little hanji for myself, but want to get a bunch of drying prep done tonight so I can at least have most of tomorrow to make hanji and relax somewhat.

HA! I am joking. There is no time to relax. But as ridiculous as my self-inflicted workload is, I am still so happy to be working. The labor keeps me honest. Back to the dryer!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Eat and beat"

[Both of these are treats that Tom made and left for me from Morgan kozo.] Thus spake Velma this morning in an email. I knew I had a big day of beating fiber ahead of me, and it is over for now. Tom did a pound and then I asked Mason, their new wonderful papermaker, to help me with the rest. I did a lot of rinsing, too, and am going to see how rinsing after beating affects the paper. If I can even keep track.

There is a ton of prep left, but I have dinner plans with friends, and figured I can do a little tomorrow morning before driving west to Oberlin. It will be a miracle if I can even hold chopsticks tonight after all of that beating. The rest of the fiber, three pounds, I will leave for the students to beat in class.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What home feels like

I'm in Cleveland! And the Morgan is really building a new bindery. It will even have wood floors!

Tom helped me beat fiber today but even then, we're only done with a little over two pounds. Cooking four pounds at a time, the second batch is roiling, and I have to cook another five tomorrow. Beating, whew!

Twigs from Morgan kozo.

All smells as it should.

Rinsed kozo outside. When I got here, I had the same feeling as when I would come home from college. I'll be crazy busy for the next week but I'm so happy to be Home.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A step back to marvel

It's hard to see here, because I am not used to the camera on my phone and I don't like sticking it into my students' spaces too much, but Heather made the most amazing woven book cover this past weekend in class. She also hosted me, so generously, since I needed a pet-free place to stay, and took excellent care of me. Lots of tea and good things to eat, a beautiful garden to explore and contemplate, and so much artwork to admire in the home. I even got to look at the book she wrote years ago, both in the first edition and the Japanese edition. Lots of inspiration!

I had written to Frank after I got home last night to tell him about how impressed I was by the students, and he said that Bookworks students are all like that, which is why he so enjoys teaching there. I had no idea I was walking into such a hive of industriousness, though I did marvel at how clean and bright and neat the large studio and gallery spaces were, which indicates a community that really cares about taking good care of its shared space and equipment. There's lots of natural light, everything seems so tastefully considered, and the people who take classes clearly like each other a lot. It's a real community that has grown around the organization, which is a hard thing to do. But so satisfying when it really blossoms.

Tomorrow, off to another lovely community that loves books and paper in northeast Ohio! Younger, but just as vibrant. Ping-pong travel is hard, but at least I'm jumping from good people to good people.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good until the last bit

I'm finally home after a long day of travel, maybe 7 or 8 hours straight. My Asheville workshop went well and Bookworks was lovely, such a beautiful space and warm community. My students astounded me with how much they got done over the weekend. I have never had such industrious students, nor a group who almost all finished an entire woven book cover before the end of class. This is Jessica with her second woven piece in the round (amazing that we even had time for me to briefly explain that process). I was so happy to meet Frank, finally, one of those 100% kind and good book and paper people. And my host was so very generous and kind, with the most beautiful garden I have seen one woman create all on her own. But I always teach all out, so naturally I was exhausted.

I flew from Asheville to Detroit, and was unwilling to wait over three hours for a long layover, so I paid to get onto an earlier one. After the flight to NYC, I took a bus to the train station, and finally the train home. I got a seat early and started to make paper cords, and later a man sat down next to me. I had my headphones on to drown out the sound of the men in front of me having a conversation. Maybe ten minutes or so after we left, the man next to me said in a not-very-nice tone, "Are you going to do that for the next 30 minutes?? I just want to know. I mean, DO IT, but you're making me insane." I was so shocked that I just looked at him, and then kept working. He had so generously granted me permission, didn't he? If he had asked nicely for me to stop, I certainly would have considered. Five minutes later, he said, "Seriously, just tell me if you are going to do this for the next 30 minutes. I have to know." I showed him the strips I had remaining and said I would do it until I was done with the strips, but had no way of timing how long that would take. He was Very Angry. I was deeply hurt b/c I am Very Sensitive. Five minutes later, he put away his book and took out his phone and started to videotape me, in what I believe was his attempt to intimidate me to stop. He put the phone right at my face, and then at my hands, and back and forth. Finally, he got up and walked away.

I hate when affluent white men feel such extreme entitlement that they need to harass people who muss their tidy patriarchy. There were so many things I considered saying, but I didn't even want to engage, since he was not in any place to be anything but high and mighty. The funny thing is that he has no idea what he was capturing on video, and how valuable that information is and has been, in the right hands.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ecstatic amidst the busywork

This is before my overly zealous haircut that will cause me to have to grow my hair out for several months before I can appear in photos, trying to keep from busting out in laughter during my shoot with Terttu. I'm trying to tie up all sorts of loose ends before I start the Month of Outrageous Work Travel, but today, I was so happy to receive, sign, and run to the post office to return my book contract to my publisher! It's really happening.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Newly shorn

My hands were itching to make stuff and I have a show deadline approaching, so I let myself stray away from the computer this afternoon. What fun! The first two pieces were warm ups. This last one is completely based on an amazing gold piece I saw in that Nomads and Networks exhibit. I love making paper replicas of ancient gold things. I really do.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hair days

Gretchen was so kind as to send me some shots from my Pyramid Atlantic workshop a week and change ago. I saw it and thought, "I really need a haircut." Yesterday, on Terttu's birthday, she shot some photos for me so we could have an array of options for my book's author photo. My hair was bad then, too, but at least it was windy. So today I chopped off a bunch, though I'm unsure of if I made the right choice. I won't have any time to grow it out, though, before I am back on the road this week to teach.

These days I am doing boring but necessary things, like composing and sending permissions requests for my book. In more exciting news, my sister's film (the one whose world premiere we saw in Berlin) will be in competition at the Tribeca Film Festival this month! It opens next week.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Books beget books

When I was a kid, I LOVED owning books, and the best weekends were when my parents took me to the bookstore and let me leave with towering piles of books, the best Christmases when I got boxes of new books. But once I started to move around a lot, book ownership became fraught and I swung in the other direction. Any book I bought was either absolutely required or a slim volume of poetry, to make the subsequent moves a little easier. Now, I'm swinging back, because it is impossible to teach, or write a book, without other books! That's what I tell myself to justify each new book purchase (and I almost always buy used ones, unless I am buying the books that include my work), but I am not looking forward to the next big move.

During one of my online research jaunts for the hanji book, I read an hilarious story connected to the tiny book pictured above. The book itself is a hoot, though it gives children no clue as to how paper is actually made or what it's made of. Plus, it's tiny and light. If only my whole library could be so portable!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

The practice of letting go

[I wanted to see what I could do with a 12 x 18-inch sheet of paper. It's tiny, but at least I know.] I thought I could barrel through the entire day and night on these edits but last night I realized that my eyes can't handle it (nor any other part of me). So, I did the wise thing and went to bed early, got up early, and finished up right before noon. There's still plenty more I can do to it, but I think this is as good as it gets before I print it and send it to my next reader. And I didn't say I wouldn't try to tweak is more even after I send it away!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Shortening the dance

Two nights ago, I had insomnia, so I got up and made 12 cords in the dark while staring at the blinking router. Yesterday, I made 12 more cords while watching something on my computer, I can't remember what. Today, I finished the last 12 and now I can no longer delay my afternoon work. I'm back to edits on the manuscript; I will sign a contract soon! Everything has become more urgent, but also real, and I am finally digging deep to figure out the answers to my questions, instead of the usual flailing. Today I was able to articulate this: maybe I could freak out a little less, and trust myself a little more. I've done so much work and it might not kill me if I own it. The foundation is solid, so who cares if I call B. kazinoki paper mulberry when really it should only refer to B. papyferia? I care, certainly, but it won't destroy my work (btw, they've been crossbred so much that no one sweats the terminology). Since we all have the rest of our lives to keep making mistakes, learning, and changing, but still do not have very long lives, I am hoping that my Over The Top Freaking Out Dance can be sidestepped, or at least abbreviated.

Also, how proud am I of Jami, and her new beautiful book? I only read a draft a long time ago (it really feels like EONS ago) but even then I knew it was going to be great.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Back to lining up ducks

Today was another organizational day. Here, you see the Korean book whose stories I want to include into my manuscript, by the woman who taught me joomchi. Then old hanji samples that I want to reconfigure for either teaching or display purposes. Then 36 pairs of strips of hanji that I would like to cord today. And at bottom, and old piece that I am thinking of recycling (though now that I look at it, maybe I will put it back in the bin because I don't have the energy to deal with this right now).

The big tasks for now are 1. deciding if I will apply for an enormous, very competitive grant and 2. revising my teaching handouts, which seems easy when I'm in the middle of teaching and realize that the handout is outdated or could use different info, but is not fun at all when I have to sit in front of the computer again. I avoided that for a while by pulling samples for my Asheville workshop next weekend. Oh! And the info for my solo show is finally online. I hear it looks beautiful, and I am delighted that they installed it all for me.

The unpleasant task I am avoiding is getting to know my new phone (another phone in the plan broke, and now we ALL have to upgrade). Because I am a cranky old man in disguise, I am horrified that I have to give up my tiny flip phone for this giant object that is capable of doing far too many things and is at higher risk of theft and breakage. Don't I have enough bright screens to stare at? I talked this past weekend to my host about my belief (completely unfounded on anything except for my own crotchety speculations) that all of these touch screens are going to make us stupid. I mean, our hands will become stupid. And as a result, our brains will become stupid. It's like how our feet are now weak and less sensitive since we wear shoes and almost all of the surfaces we walk on are smooth (I know, First World Problems). Now our hands are experiencing the same thing. Do people even know how to hold pencils anymore?

To combat that, I'm going to keep cording paper. That book up there talks about how constant use of your hands keeps you sane and clear as you age, and she's living proof, having been born in the 1920s but still alive and kicking, handling hanji every day. She wrote that the constant stimulation of fingers and hands against each other keeps the entire body healthy and the mind alert. And now I am inching closer and closer to practicing my violin to balance the ratio of plastic/glass/other weird stuff to paper and wood and things that still breathe.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Faking bed rest

Turns out I was in denial and likely what I am suffering from is a combo of bad allergies and a cold. Today I am practicing bed rest by being in a bed, propped up with pillows, catching up on computer work. I swear after lunch I will really lay down, all the way down, and rest. Or, I will lay in bed with a book instead of the computer (the book, btw, is AMAZING--Sukey Hughes' Washi: The World of Japanese Paper. I feel like a dunce every time I open it. It's like the book I always dreamed of making but why bother, since she did it so well. Thank goodness it exists in the world).

So, the updates: Alicia Bailey did a nice little write up of my books she has on consignment. Buy, and rest easy that the prices are no higher than what I would charge myself. I finally updated my website, though since my designer has gone AWOL, I haven't been able to fix a few weird "hello I am your website and I have decided to do what I like" quirks, like how it doesn't display thumbnails of the subsections (yet it seems to do that just fine on other mobile devices). These issues go into the big Bucket of Less Pressing Matters. This is one of my new wall pieces, which I named after the squirrels who ate my paper. The first three books here are new knitted ones. And the first three here are new non-knitted books. Oh, and the little cups are here.

Above is a shot of another lovely miniature book that Asao Shimura mailed to me, all about hanji and the fun things he can do with it. It's a revised version, and pretty great. He has asked me to carry them to my workshops to sell, so I'm hoping to spread the joy once I'm back on the road next week.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Overdid it

[Stefan did such a nice job photographing! As always.] The word for straining yourself in Korean is one I learned much later in my adult life. It wasn't part of my vocab growing up. But when I was doing my research in Korea, people kept using it and it took a while for me to finally figure out what they were saying.

I made it back home last night just after midnight, but in shreds. The D.C. workshop was a great success and I really enjoyed my students, meeting people I had only either heard of or been in email contact with for years (including a woman I helped in Korea who also studied with my hanji teacher; what a nice surprise visit!), spending time with a thoughtful and intelligent host who made the most amazing eggs for me each morning, and seeing an old friend from Korea. But I was unprepared for the full onslaught of hayfever season--D.C. is warmer than NY and there was all sorts of stuff flying about in the air and it was windy, so I felt feverish and delirious on both days. For the first time on Sunday, my body balked and I had to stop and rest on a loooong escalator (why is the D.C. subway system SO far underground? It feels like going into the center of the earth) while trying to catch the bus back. This was after I had gotten on the subway going in the wrong direction. Thankfully, the bus was delayed, so I didn't miss it, and the worst of the rain happened while enroute.

After seven straight hours of travel (my body also balked at the dragging of teaching materials around, which means it's probably time to find a proper trainer to learn how to manipulate weight without pulling my back out), I can't say today that I am anywhere close to normal. I tried to work this morning but could only run a few errands and do a few things before collapsing into a feverish heap while listening to NPR. I hope tomorrow will be better, after soup and acetaminophen. I also may have to seriously consider sleeping aids while teaching and traveling to force rest. Now I get why people stay in one place and teach close to home--what a luxury!